The Utah Symphony kicks off the holiday season with the beloved "Messiah" sing-in

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (November 8, 2017) – On November 25 and 26 at 7:30 PM, The Utah Symphony, Members of the Utah Symphony Chorus, Westminster Community Choir, soloists Abigail Rethwisch, Melanie Ashkar, Christopher Oglesby, Jesús Vicente Murillo, and the Salt Lake community join together to share in the singing of Handel’s iconic masterpiece under the direction of Utah Symphony Assistant Conductor Conner Gray Covington.  Bring your family, and your score, and join in the 2,000 voice Abravanel Hall audience singing the majesty of Handel’s “Messiah.”  Tickets are priced from $14-$39 and can be purchased at or by calling (801) 533-6683.

Of the glorious melodies that pour forth from the piece, composer George Frideric Handel said that the heavens seemed to open to him as he composed his beloved Messiah. Handel’s piece is an oratorio composed in 1741 with the combination of vocal and instrumental elements, utilizing scriptural texts from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. While the structure of the concert resembles that of an opera, like all oratorios, it does not need theatrics in the reflection of Jesus Christ as Messiah, as the drama and beauty from its memorable melodies captures the revelatory emotions described in the text. The text comprises three parts including the prophecies by Isaiah, followed by the “Hallelujah” chorus, concluding with Christ’s glorification in heaven and the resurrection of the dead.

It is said the practice of standing for the “Hallelujah” Chorus is based upon legend. The lore follows that King George II first stood for the chorus in 1743, making it necessary for all of his subjects to stand. No one actually knows whether or not he did this or if he was even at the performance. Another legend states that the audience rose to their feet in awe of Handel’s mastery as a spontaneous show of emotion during the premiere. It is also interesting to note that, contrary to modern convention, Handel clearly intended Messiah for the Easter observances rather than Christmas, and that the performances in his day were always given in the spring.

Soprano Abigail Rethwisch, a returning Resident Artist with Utah Opera, stepped in on short notice in March 2017 to sing the role of "Lucia di Lammermoor" for the entire run of Utah Opera's production. Following an apprenticeship with The Santa Fe Opera in 2017, she was a featured soloist in Utah Symphony's Great American Road Trip. This season with Utah Opera, she will sing Adele in "Die Fledermaus" before returning for a second season with The Santa Fe Opera.  

Melanie Ashkar is currently a member of the Resident Artist Program at Utah Opera where in addition to serving as an education outreach ambassador for the company throughout the state, she will be featured in the main stage productions of “Die Fledermaus,” and “Gianni Schicchi.”  Ms. Ashkar made her New York City Opera debut last season, appearing in Respighi’s “La Campana Sommersa,” and the American premiere of “Literes’s Los Elementos,” playing the role of Earth.

Christopher Oglesby was recently named a winner in the Utah District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He is currently a Resident Artist with Utah Opera where he was featured in a duet with Renee Fleming at the season opening gala, sang the role of Parpignol in "La Boheme," and will appear in "Gianni Schicchi."  Mr. Oglesby was previously a Young Artist with the Ohio Light Operaand an education artist with The Dallas Opera.

Jesús Vicente Murillo made his professional debut at the age of eighteen with Michigan Opera Theater as The Android in "The Very Last Green Thing." A current Resident Artist with Utah Opera, he will appear this season as Captain Gardiner in "Moby-Dick," and Spinelloccio in "Gianni Schicchi." 

The Westminster Community Choir is composed of all Westminster College’s students, faculty, staff and members of the community, performing a variety of well-loved music. 

The Utah Symphony Chorus is an audition-only group composed of professional singers from the Salt Lake City area. It performs several concerts each season with the Utah Symphony, which include choral masterworks, pops concerts, and the yearly audience-participation performances of Handel’s “Messiah.”

Conner Gray Covington began his position as Assistant Conductor of the Utah Symphony this season after appearing as a guest conductor on the 2017 Deer Valley Music Festival Chamber Concert Series. In June of 2017, he completed his tenure as the Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he worked closely with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and the Curtis Opera Theater, while also being mentored by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He recently made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra sharing the podium with Ludovic Morlot. Covington began his career as Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. A two-time recipient (2014, 2017) of a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., he recently worked with the Nashville Symphony as a featured conductor in the 2016 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview presented by the League of American Orchestras.



The concerts will be sung in English. The chorus will sing from the Baerenriter score although both Baerenriter and Schirmer scores can be used by the audience. Musical scores are available for purchase starting at $9 for the Schirmer edition and $28 for the Baerenriter at the Utah Symphony Guild store in the lobby prior to the performances.


The Utah Symphony presents
“Messiah” Sing-in
November 25 and 26, 2017 | 7:30 PM | Abravanel Hall

Conner Gray Covington, conductor
Abigail Rethwisch, soprano
Melanie Ashkar, mezzo soprano
Christopher Oglesby, tenor
Jesús Vicente Murillo, baritone

Westminster Community Chorus
Members of the Utah Symphony Chorus                                                                                                                                                 

HANDEL: Messiah


Season Sponsor:George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
Concert Sponsor: Zions Bank


Tickets range from $14-$39 and can be purchased at or by calling (801) 533-6683.

About the Utah Symphony

Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony performs more than 175 concerts each season and offers all Utahns easy access to world-class live musical performances of the world’s greatest music in the state’s top venues. Since being named the orchestra’s seventh music director in 2009, Thierry Fischer has attracted leading musicians and top soloists, refreshed programming, drawn increased audiences, and galvanized community support. In addition to numerous regional and domestic tours, including the Mighty 5® Tour of Utah’s national parks, the Utah Symphony has embarked on seven international tours and performed at Carnegie Hall in Sspring 2016 coinciding with the orchestra’s 75th anniversary celebrations. The Utah Symphony has released more than 100 recordings, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Fall 2017, Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (2015) and Dawn to Dust (2016), which features three Utah Symphony-commissioned works by Nico Muhly, Andrew Norman, and Augusta Read Thomas. Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, the orchestra’s parent organization, reaches 450,000 residents in Utah and the Intermountain region, with educational outreach programs serving around140,000 students annually. In addition to performances in its home in Salt Lake City, Abravanel Hall, and concerts throughout the state of Utah, the Utah Symphony participates in Utah Opera's four annual productions at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre and presents the six-week Deer Valley® Music Festival each summer in Park City, Utah. With its many subscription, education, and outreach concerts and tours, the Utah Symphony is one of the most engaged orchestras in the nation. For more information visit


Season Sponsor for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.

2017-18 Masterworks Series Sponsor: OC Tanner